BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 1 – Iraqi security forces continued advance and clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants, in the northern central province of Salahudin, while U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft pounded suspected IS positions in Anbar province, a provincial official and security sources said.
The troops and allied militias, known as Hashd Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation, recaptured B’ieji area and several nearby villages, in the east of the IS-held town of Baiji, some 200 km north of the capital of Baghdad, Mohammed Hameed, mayor of Baiji, said.
The troops are preparing for a major battle to advance to the centre of the town, which many of the IS militants started to flee their positions inside the town, after fierce clashes with the troops during the past 24 hours, Hammed said.
Meanwhile, security forces and hundreds of Hashd Shaabi fighters continued their heavy clashes with the IS militants in the nearby oil refinery of Baiji, just north of Baiji town, which the extremist militants earlier seized most of its installations, the security source said.
Also in the province, security forces and allied militias swept the vast open area between the town of Dujail, some 60 km north of Baghdad, and the city of Samarra, about 120 km north of the capital, and retook control of several villages, including Albu Saiyl, al-Amana, Sumilat, Kassarat, Qarbasiyat and Albu Shalash, the source said.
Since Mar 2, some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias have been involved in Iraq’s biggest offensive to recapture the northern part of Salahudin province, including Tikrit and other key towns and villages, from IS militants.
In Anbar province, the U.S.-led coalition aircraft carried out an airstrike on two houses, said to be a safe haven for IS militants, near the militant-seized town of Garma, just east of the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, leaving six militants killed and four others injured, a provincial security source said.
In addition, Iraqi warplanes carried out airstrikes on a marketplace and a mosque in the IS-held city of Fallujah, leaving 10 people killed, including four IS militants, and six more people wounded, the source said.
The airstrikes in Anbar came five days after the Iraqi security forces and allied militias commenced a military offensive, aimed at driving out the IS militants from Ramadi, which the extremist militants took full control of on May 17, after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their positions.
The security situation in Iraq has drastically deteriorated since last June, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and IS militants.